If you or a loved one were recently arrested for drunk driving it is imperative that you take prompt action to protect yourself throughout this difficult process. If you are fortunate enough to read this before anyone has been arrested then I encourage you to read our blog about Common Misconceptions in Drunk Driving Cases for additional pre-arrest information. Although specific legal recommendations depend on the particular facts of any given scenario, below are some general guidelines that will assist you no matter your particular situation. By following the steps below, you will go a long way towards minimizing the impact the arrest may have on your life.
1. Don’t Say Anything!
I know this blog is focused on post-arrest recommendations, but this one is so important that it bears repeating. You should not, under any circumstances, answer police questions regarding your driving and consumption of alcohol. Anything you say will be used against you in court and can dramatically lessen your legal options going forward. It is always best to be respectful, yet firm, and inform the police officer that you will not answer any questions without first consulting with an attorney.
Keep in mind that the police are not required to automatically advise you of the Miranda rights upon arrest. The questions that the cops ask while they are standing at your driver’s side door do not require Miranda warnings and are just as admissible against you in court as a signed confession. Put simply, do not be the person who tells the cops that “you just had two beers.” Everything after that typically goes downhill.
2. Read Your Paperwork.
In most circumstances, a person arrested for OWI will be released to a sober, responsible adult. Upon release, the cops will give you a copy of any citations that you received, along with important documents regarding an administrative license suspension. By law, the police are required to notify the DMV when they obtain a breath or blood sample that contains a quantity of alcohol that is above the legal limit. The cops will give you a form titled “Notice of Intent to Suspend” or “Notice of Intent to Revoke” if you refused to provide a breath or blood sample. These forms have very important information that will affect your driver’s license status. Put simply, if your sample was above .08, the DMV will administratively suspend your license in 30 days.
The other important form is titled “Administrative Review Request.” This form has to be completed and returned to the DMV within 10 days from receipt of the Notice of Intent to Suspend and is the only method to challenge the administrative suspension. If you do not request a hearing within the 10 day time limit the DMV will impose a 6 month administrative suspension of your driver’s license.
Keep in mind, this administrative review process generally occurs well before you will ever appear in court for the actual OWI citation. There are a lot of advantages to conducting an administrative review hearing and a successful defense can spare you the hassle of a six month license suspension. As difficult as it can be sometimes after an arrest, dig into your paperwork and take prompt action to protect yourself.
3. Consult With an Attorney
We know this may seem like self-serving advice coming from a criminal defense lawyer, but the simple truth is that OWI cases carry big consequences including mandatory jail for criminal offenses, lengthy driver’s license revocations, and hefty monetary fines. The collateral consequences that arise from an OWI conviction can last for years after the conviction itself. Your best chance at successfully defending yourself is doing everything legally possible to prevent a conviction in the first place. Our OWI laws are sufficiently complex that most successfully defenses require specialized legal knowledge and experience. Your odds of “winning” in court go up dramatically when you are represented by an attorney who is familiar with the “rules of the game” and works to use them to your advantage.
Our criminal defense attorneys offer free initial consultations and case evaluations so there is no risk in having at least an initial consultation to better understand your options. As the old proverb indicates, “a man who is his or her own lawyer has a fool for a client.”
4. Attend Court.
Your case will not go away if you ignore it. In fact, your situation will become worse. For first offense cases, if you miss court the judge will automatically find you guilty, order a license suspension, and impose significant monetary fines. If you are facing a criminal OWI charge and you miss court, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. An arrest warrant will remain active for your entire life and will result in your arrest upon any contact with the police. No matter your situation, ignoring your case will only make things worse. You need to be proactive to ensure your rights are protected.
We hope you found the above recommendations helpful in dealing with your stressful situation. Given the limited focus of this blog, if you would like to schedule a free consultation to talk more in depth with one of our criminal defense attorneys please call our office or submit a case evaluation via our website.
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